Carmelo Anthony was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder in September with the assumption they would compete for a championship, but he and his new team have fallen well short of that expectation through 28 games. The Thunder have started to find their groove in December, however, and will try to find enough energy to give Anthony a happy homecoming Saturday when he returns to New York for the first time since the trade when they face the Knicks.
Anthony enjoyed one of his finest games of the season with 24 points on 11-of-17 shooting as Oklahoma City outlasted the Philadelphia 76ers 119-117 in three overtimes Friday, marking only the second time in 10 games in which the 10-time All-Star topped 20 points. The Thunder improved to 6-2 this month as their star-studded trio of reigning MVP Russell Westbrook, Anthony and Paul George combined for 75 points. While Oklahoma City will have less than 24 hours to recover from its marathon victory, it may be able to draw comfort from the fact New York could be without its top two scorers. Already without Tim Hardaway Jr., the Knicks watched leading scorer Kristaps Porzingis leave midway through the third quarter with an injury Thursday but found a way to secure their third straight win - a 114-104 triumph at the Brooklyn Nets.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, NBA TV, FSN Oklahoma (Oklahoma City), MSG (New York)
ABOUT THE THUNDER (14-14): Westbrook added another layer to his statistical greatness in Friday’s marathon victory, finishing with 27 points, 18 rebounds and 15 assists to join former teammate James Harden as the only player in the last 30 seasons to tally at least 25 points, 15 rebounds and 15 assists in a game. Andre Roberson, who hit the game-winner with 10 seconds left in the third overtime, returned from a two-game absence to contribute four points, seven rebounds and three steals. George shot 5-of-11 beyond the arc and tallied 24 points Friday but continued to shoot poorly overall; the four-time All-Star is 18-for-51 in three games since a two-game absence due a right calf contusion, lowering his field-goal percentage for the season to a career-low 40.8.
ABOUT THE KNICKS (15-13): Porzingis is questionable for Saturday after removing himself from Thursday’s game with a left knee injury; the 22-year-old forward reportedly had his knee “worked on” Friday and the discomfort in his knee decreased as a result, according to reports. With Hardaway Jr. already out indefinitely with a stress injury in his lower left leg, Courtney Lee scored 18 of his 27 points in the second half to hold off the Nets. Michael Beasley, who finished with 15 points in 20 minutes Thursday and has averaged 17 points per game as a starter this season, will likely draw his fifth start of the season if Porzingis is ruled out before the start of Saturday’s game.
1. The Thunder have won four straight against the Knicks and can even the all-time series at 65-65 with another victory Saturday.
2. Beasley is averaging 12.3 points in December after scoring 8.3 points per game in November and 4.4 in October.
3. Westbrook has produced a triple-double in each of his last three road outings.
PREDICTION: Thunder 102, Knicks 99